How To Swap Your Way To A New Wardrobe

All you need to get started is clothes you’re willing to part with—and an open mind about what you might find.
How To Swap Your Way To A New Wardrobe

Annette Nguyen founded the Shwap Club, a unique clothing-swap members club in Montreal. (Photo: Sylvie Li)

Clothing swaps are not a new concept, but with so many of them popping up all over the country, we took notice. Not only are they fun, they also allow you to give new life to your wardrobe without spending a ton of money (or, in many cases, any money at all). All you need to get started is clothes you’re willing to part with—and an open mind about what you might find.

In Montreal, the Shwap Club is formalizing the swapping process. Members bring in gently used, still-trendy pieces in order to receive store credits to “buy” other pre-loved garments.

Unlike traditional swaps, the club has two bricks-and-mortar locations and charges a per-visit ($22) or yearly fee ($145), which allows people to trade and shop as well as save any unused credits for future shopping trips if they don’t immediately find something to swap their items for. Clothing racks are stocked with brands like Aritzia, Banana Republic, Lululemon and Frank And Oak, which are favourites of the young professional client base.

Founder Annette Nguyen, a former lawyer, opened the club’s first location in 2018, having been inspired by her own attempts to keep her business-casual wardrobe fresh. “I felt like I always needed to have a new blouse and new trousers as well as fun dresses for happy hour,” she says. “Even shopping second-hand, it was getting expensive.”


After becoming a mom and experiencing how quickly children grow out of their clothes, Nguyen expanded her business beyond the nine-to-five crowd and opened a second location dedicated entirely to maternity and kids.

Swapping clothes is often a rite of passage when starting a family. “My closet has always been a bit of a river, with stuff coming in and out,” says Miranda Bryden, a former Toronto store owner who now works in climate action. “But clothing swaps really became part of my life when I became a mother and went through a transitional period with my body—young mothers are really good at getting together and sharing information, sharing supplies and sharing clothing.”

Ever since then, she has been swapping clothes: sometimes finding pieces for herself, sometimes picking one up for a close friend when she finds a gem she knows they would enjoy wearing. “I have a lot of love for the energy that second-hand clothes carry. It forms connections where there were none before.”


How To Swap Your Way To A New WardrobeLisa Amerongen, the founder of T.O. the Good Swap. (Photo: Christie Vuong)

Building a community around the sharing economy is what first attracted Lisa Amerongen to clothing swaps. She had attended and hosted a few small-scale swaps with friends when she launched T.O. the Good Swap, a monthly volunteer-run event in Toronto, in March 2021. It snowballed and now brings together more than 120 people each month.

For Amerongen, inclusivity is top-of-mind, and the swap welcomes people of all ages, sizes, genders, identities and economic backgrounds.


There’s an element of uncertainty to clothing swaps, which keeps things interesting and, for many, is part of the appeal. “The swap is only as good as the items that are donated,” she says. “Sometimes you find the perfect outfit, sometimes you don’t.” And that’s the beauty of it.

Two frequent clothes swappers at a Toronto clothes swap event are pictured for an article that gives tips on how to organize a clothing swap.Elle Mendoza and Miranda Bryden swap their pre-loved clothing for new pieces. Here, they’re pictured at a T.O. the Good Swap event in January 2024. (Photo: Christie Vuong)

For Elle Mendoza, a content creator from Toronto, clothing swaps are a way to clear out her family’s overflowing closet. It's also a way to find new pieces for herself, her husband and her three-year-old son. She loves that it's opportunity to experiment with style without spending and without pressure. “You have room to play around and figure out if something works for you without the influence of a sales assistant,” she says. “If it doesn’t work, you can bring it back to the next swap.”


Bryden echoes the sentiment. “It’s my creative expression. So much in life is serious, but this is low-stakes, and won’t eat into your budget.”

How to organize a clothing swap

Want to save money, find new clothes and take a more sustainable approach to fashion? Hosting your own clothing swap is a fun way to refresh your wardrobe. Miranda Bryden, Annette Nguyen and Lisa Amerongen share their pro tips.


Start small

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate affair. “You can create a clothing swap with just one other person who you love and trust,” says Bryden, whose first foray into clothing swaps was with friends.

Manage expectations


“Be clear about what you will be offering,” says Nguyen.

Can people bring bras and bathing suits? Do you accept jewellery? Do you want kids’ clothes? Make sure everyone is on the same page.

On the invitation to your clothing swap party, be sure to include date, time and the type of items you're looking for.


Be inclusive

Some events charge an entry fee or accept cash donations to help keep things running—but if you can, make it accessible to all. “We have a suggested donation amount, but no one will ever be turned away for a lack of funds,” says Amerongen. She also suggests reaching out to different communities to advertise the event, since a swap only gets clothing donations as diverse as its attendees.

Make space


A successful swap allows lots of room for people to dig through piles of stuff, so clothing racks and tables to lay out the items are a good idea. “You’ll also want to have full-length mirrors, good lighting and a private area for people to try things on,” says Amerongen.

If you're hosting a small clothes swap event, consider grouping items depending on the size, season or type to make things easier to find.

Plan what's next


At the end of the event, you might be left with bags of clothing items that didn't find a new home. Plan what you'll do with leftover clothes ahead of time. Both Nguyen and Amerongen work with local charities to donate the unwanted items.


Subscribe to our newsletters for our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers.

By signing up, you agree to our terms of use and privacy policy. You may unsubscribe at any time.